Remember those language tests you had at school, followed by grammar tasks and interpretation of some, most likely, dead author of tragic fate, who only had time to write few pieces, but those were, oh, absolutely brilliant. So, La Biennale di Venezia is that huge language test, you take voluntarily, looking for the right answers throughout your visit, trying to interpret and answer questions of all the magical art pieces you look at. These questions are very likely to be followed by some doubt if the pieces are magical in the first place. There is also the hard task of finding the exact bridge you have to cross in 600 meters and hesitation whether to have that cheap Aperol Spritz before or after visiting the 17th pavilion on your list.
“I’m usually too lazy to make a list, but I have to know my options, so, I do my research too. And this part is just precious, especially when you compare expert lists made before and after the winners of The Biennale are announced.”
Oh, the list. Easy for the adventurous ones – you follow your heart, visit every second pavilion, or the ones which names start with capital B, K, and M, or just go straight to the café at Giardini. You rely on your fortune taking this test. But it’s a bit more complicated for nerds. You probably spend some time preparing, collecting information, comparing it, making that list. I’m usually too lazy to make it, but I have to know my options, so I do my research too. And this part is just precious, especially when you compare expert lists made before and after the winners of The Biennale are announced. In any case, you usually notice 5 to 10 Big Names on every list. They are big, and they are born with a silver spoon – having a pavilion at Giardini, or the Arsenale is a jackpot for every participant – it’s easy to find it or simply to run into the pavilion by accident. Logistics might be a serious deal breaker if you are not a real fanatic – every test has a limited time. Most probably, you have limited time to see stuff at La Bienalle, so, if that stuff is not on the main exhibition spaces, all of the best wishes and marvelous creative ideas of the pavilions installed outside them are pretty much dead. Well, lists of the experts can help the outsiders to be noticed and encourage ordinary-non-fanatic Biennale visitors to come. Still, as I’ve mentioned, these are usually filled with Big Names.
“It’s amazing to make a good beer or play basketball, which Lithuania has been doing for many years now, but the ability to globally speak about the inevitable – climate change and how we made our planet Earth to go to waste – in such a relaxed, subtle and gentle manner is a sign of true mastery and giving a damn about this big test human race should better start solving. ”
It could’ve happened to Lithuanian pavilion too. Located just in front of the Arsenale, but separated by water, Sun & Sea (Marina) beach comes with a severe package – a space too difficult for GPS only navigated brain of 21 century human to find. Also, an enormous queue to survive before entering (we’ve accidentally had a proper Italian carbs dinner with some fantastic folks, who spent 3 hrs and 18 minutes to experience it), but luckily, it has a cherry on the top – the Golden Lion.
It’s one or even the most extraordinary Olympic kind of win Lithuania has ever achieved. It’s amazing to make a good beer or play basketball, which Lithuania has been doing for many years now. Still, the ability to globally speak about the inevitable – climate change and how we made our planet Earth to go to waste – in such a relaxed, subtle and gentle manner is a sign of true mastery and giving a damn about this big test human race should better start solving. Opera performance made by the filmmaker and director Rugile Barzdziukaite, the writer Vaiva Grainyte and artist and composer Lina Lapelyte together with 20 singers and a bunch of others behind the scenes – is a lucky, but well-deserved example, of how one gets on all those priority lists and it becomes a matter of honour to visit a pavilion, even if it’s located in the most uncomfortable spot of Venice. Imagine Lithuanian pavilion getting no Lion, nor Special Mentioning by the commission in the Biennale this year. A wonderful piece would’ve been doomed to silently go to waste together with our Mother Earth. And now let’s imagine all the other Non-Big Names that might be worth experiencing, but out of your way? The test gets really complicated here. Especially, when 58th Biennale shows way stronger and more consistent analysis of world’s dystopian future in the selection of artists and works at The Biennale Exhibition than most of the pavilions do.
“And I have no idea what loop caught Jon Rafman, but his cheap 3D computer animation Dream Journal is my absolutely favourite Exhibition piece. This story of Xanax girl is so fucked up, you start to believe it, you start lucid dreaming yourself, and you see dozen other spectators feeling the same, being unable to leave the screen and that acid world of Xanax girl (and probably ours in the future).”
Not only Sun & Sea (Marina), but also few other participating countries and artists truly care about what we’ve all created here, overdosing our planet. Some, like Christoph Buchel, in his work Our Ship, reminds us bald facts. Artist put a fishing vessel, that sank in the Mediterranean with 800 migrants on board, straight in front of the Arsenale and everyone passing it, being very concerned, drinking bubbles. Or Laure Prouvost, representing France with his large scale, multiple objects and performance piece Deep See Blue Surrounding You, throwing us into piles of trash that we so carelessly throw out ourselves. Or Soham Gupta, telling dark photographic stories in his series Angst of those from the outskirts of Kolkata – vulnerable, abandoned, hurt. Or Poland mirroring countries elite with a deformed inside-out luxury private aircraft by Roman Stanczak, called Flight. Or Slavs and Tatars, a collective, which started as a book club and now works in different fields but concentrates on language (and I guess, sarcasm) a lot. Remember, you are taking a language test here. Also, Ghana – the newborn of this Biennale – first-time participant, talking about countries freedom and a long bloody road to it with words and works of various native artists.
After little mourning over our own doings and maybe even giving some thought on how could we maybe change it, heavy artillery comes. It brings solid dystopian portraits of the future we are heading to, and we are heading there fast. Let’s climb a little, installation Eskalation by Alexandra Bircken is perfect for those who don’t have time for deeper interpretations – a plain class photo, forty figures in black latex trapped in the dystopian success-failure-hope-despair circle. If you still have some laughs to laugh, Belgian pavilion is here for your service. Representing old Europe and folkloric tradition, Mondo Cane by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, seems like a nightmare full of automated dolls, stuck in a creepy loop.
And I have no idea what loop caught Jon Rafman, but his cheap 3D computer animation Dream Journal is my absolutely favourite Exhibition piece. This story of Xanax girl is so fucked up, you start to believe it, you start lucid dreaming yourself, and you see dozen other spectators feeling the same, being unable to leave the screen and that acid world of Xanax girl (and probably ours in the future).
“We search for a language, and Biennale is definitely a well-developed language itself. And it speaks about something we all experience and feel and see – a dystopia this time. ”
However, I might lie about the feelings of those other spectators, so I might fail this part of the test. I’ve made this very best decision to volunteer and spend a few hours on the beach of Sun & Sea (Marina) and I brought this book by Aldous Huxley with me. Only read a few pages then, I won’t lie, but these contained the idea of how we can’t re-live or re-feel the experiences or emotions of others. No matter how close we are, no matter if we felt something at the same time. What we can do, is to try to explain these experiences, to compare it to some universal systems everyone understands. We search for a language, and Biennale is definitely a well-developed language itself. And it speaks about something we all experience and feel and see – a dystopia this time. You just scored a language test. Now let’s score the test of that dystopian future – may we outlive those interesting times.